Today I said goodbye to you, a friend I didn’t know very well.
Over 142-years old. Truly, a Mighty Oak you were.
You stood as most Bicentennial Oaks stand: majestic and inspiring. You watched over our community - your community - silently observing the changes time brings with it.
Northfield Avenue was your home long before Seton Hall Prep bought your growing and caring rights. (Before that, Mountain High School. And even before that, you were but a sapling along a dirt road leading from West Orange’s Main Street up to the top of the St. Cloud neighborhood.)
Over one hundred and forty years ago.
To have the honor of standing for so long on the grounds of schools!
How many children gazed out of their classroom windows, hypnotized by your swaying branches and breathing leaves, as the children dreamed as school children do?
It is us who were fortunate to have you.
I visited your stump today. You had just been sawed down.
Twelve hours it took the tree company.
Your stump will take many more hours to remove.
Chainsaws, leaf blowers, mulchers – these are things unheard of when you were a sapling.
The tree company was beginning work on the other trees that stood alongside you.
For what purpose, I don’t know. Our town lacks an appreciation of the work you do.
Apparently the students at Seton Hall Prep will count your rings?
You will keep inspiring and educating students even after your death.
I wish I could have been there as you were taken down. I felt like I had arrived late to a funeral. It was quiet. The space you once filled with awe is now empty.
Your life deserves respect.
The plaque stating, “Hazard Zet Forward” (Seton Hall Prep’s school motto meaning, ‘No matter the risk, move forward’), still stands where you once stood. It should come down.
There remains twisted irony in that those who cared for you so diligently throughout your lifetime -schools, zoning boards, religious leaders, your community – are in fact the hazards for so many of your brethren: Oak, Hickory, Maple, Pine, Japanese Yews. All counting their final days as part of the histrical McClellan Old Growth Forest, along Prospect Avenue. Soon, they too, will join you in your service as mulch. (We still mourn the loss of those that predeceased you. Sawed down illegally. One Might White Oak, twice as old as you had grown!)
I suppose small saplings will be planted where you once stood.
They should be planted in your memory, with a plaque dedicated to you:
“Here stood a Mighty Oak. A symbol of Nature, a symbol of Life, a symbol of Respect. Thank you for your service to our community; thank you for inspiring so many. May many more trees have the fortune to live a life as you have.”
Perhaps those new saplings will have the good fortune to serve and inspire for as long as you had, dear friend.